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The Healing Tree Project Receives Grant that will Aid Mission to Help Burned Children Across Latin America

This is a guest post from Patti Groh, Director of Marketing Communications for Sappi North America.

Seven million children, mostly under the age of 5, suffer severe burn injuries in Latin America every year. It goes without saying that the physical damage is extensive, but the emotional effects can also be long-lasting. Inspired by the need for a more empathetic healing program, Alvin Oei, Environmental Design student from of the ArtCenter College of Design and the Designmatters department of social innovation has created The Healing Tree project for COANIQUEM BCF, the Burned Children Foundation (BCF).

In collaboration with COANIQUEM, a nonprofit pediatric burn treatment facility in Santiago, Chile, the Designmatters Safe Ninos multidisciplinary studio challenged students to work with stakeholders at the treatment center to reinvigorate the 6-acre campus with innovative, human-centered environments.

Oei’s project, which was recently awarded an Ideas That Matter grant from Sappi North America, is an immersive environmental design project that re-imagines the clinic as a child-friendly world that reduces stress and optimizes conditions for healing. To bring this to life, Alvin created a storybook, patient passport and environmental graphic system to guide children and their families through burn treatment plans. The illustrations will be developed by ArtCenter Illustration student Belle Lee based on Oei’s creative direction.

In the passport, child characters Camilla and Lucas act as guides for the patient as they embark on a journey through a magical world, based on the many ecosystems of Chile, filled with animal friends who support the patient as he or she goes through different treatments and therapies. Each animal represents a different form of therapy and demonstrates the process and skills the patient will need to navigate them.

For example, the bunny depicted throughout physical therapy teaches children to jump and stretch. The hummingbird is used in musical therapy to demonstrate expressing oneself. The Pudú, a native Chilean deer, is the representative of the compression-garment fitting process and emphasizes the importance of being unique and proud.

The storybook is available to patients, families and staff in the waiting rooms, dormitory and school at COANIQUEM’s facility. As children visit each animal character and progress through their treatments, therapists stamp their passport. The passport is also filled with interactive activities, such as drawing projects and scavenger hunts focused on finding animals on the walls of the facilities, as well as information for the families.

“Art is an incredible way to make a difference in the world, and I am proud to be working on this project with COANIQUEM BCF. These children are going through an unimaginable experience, and to help them in their healing journey is an honor. Without the support of Sappi, this and many other important projects like it, wouldn’t be possible,” said Alvin Oei, creator of The Healing Tree project.

The approach is research-based. The movement of healing spaces was sparked in 1984 by Robert Ulrich who found that patients with nice window views healed faster than patients with views of a brick wall. And, according to the Center for Health Design’s Guide to Evidence-Based Art, murals resulted in a significant decrease in reported pain intensity, pain quality and anxiety by burn patients.

With the goal of reducing stress for patients, Oei submitted the inspirational plan to Sappi North America’s 2016 Ideas That Matter competition and was awarded a $49,438 grant to bring The Healing Tree to life.

Since 1999 Sappi’s Ideas that Matter grant program has funded over 500 nonprofit projects and has contributed more than $13 million to a wide range of causes that use design as a positive force in society. Rooted in a passion for helping others, the Ideas that Matter competition shines a bright light on the power of graphic design and printed materials in today’s increasingly web-based world.

The project aims to complete these elements by April 2017. In addition to the 2,000 new patients treated on campus annually, COANIQUEM’s large network of NGOs and clinics allows The Healing Tree project to reach far more children than those within its own facility.

Patti Groh

About Patti Groh:

Patti Groh is Director of Marketing Communications for Sappi North America, a leading producer and global supplier of diversified paper and packaging products. She is responsible for the company’s coated paper and packaging marketing communications programs, including the branding of its products and the development of its award winning printed collateral. Patti manages all of their customer-facing communications, which incorporate a mix of print and digital media along with targeted events. She also oversees the Ideas That Matter charitable giving program, which provides financial support to designers who create and implement print projects for social impact. She has been with Sappi for 24 years and has held various positions in sales and marketing. Patti has a BA in Political Science from San Diego State University and an MBA from the University of San Francisco.

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